Despite some challenging road surfaces, I had a smile on my face for hours today. Last night’s dinner was simply that good. But we had to move on because there’s more adventure and fortuity ahead.
If you’ll agree that eleven is a cloud, we’ve cycled under a cloud of Sacred Ibis. Translucent, almost glowing, it’s not their crotach-like ground prodding (think supplication) that gives them their name. It’s their heavenly, angelic, languid, lingering flight, imho. Ideal uplift for weary cyclegrims on the seemingly endless flat plains of Lombardy. Shade may have been restricted or banned because the dark places are for sinners (imho). Of course, if you grew up under a cloud of ibis sacro, the brown habit of the almost mendicant Curlew might be your uplifting sight on a dreich day in the Hibernian Isles.
Crotach is Irish for Curlew and Ibis sacro is Italian for Threskiornis aethiopicus, once worshiped as the god Thoth and often mummified and interred with Egyptian pharaohs. Yes, the Sacred Ibis has a backstory though it’s considered a feral refugee now that pharaonic needs have been met. And renamed African Sacred Ibis lest we forget. But you know all these things.
This city is infected with Ring Necked Parakeets. Their invasion has displaced the scourge of feral pigeons. Indeed, I saw 450 pigeons on a small island in the Ticino.
Do you know that Edwina has been tracking us? I spotted her among the pigeons this morning. In my 2021 chapbook Coastal Birds I wrote “Some birds become so familiar that we recognise individuals. A Grey Heron to us is Edwina, seen most mornings when we walk the pier in Dún Laoghaire.”
Edwina has been with me the whole way. I’m pretty sure as a favour to my wife, who named her. They’re making sure I’m being looked after. I first saw Edwina in Dublin from the ferry. In Kent she appeared annoyed to have been seen flying over a stand of trees. In France, she revealed herself daily in so many circumstances that I began to wonder if it was the same bird at all. Then I saw her watching me from fields in Switzerland and from the Fiume Ticino near Pavia, in the same nonchalant way she watched us in France.